Monday, March 26, 2012

Keep looking down

  Walking in the cloud forest, one tends to look up to see the majestic trees—and the birds and monkeys. Looking down can be very rewarding as well. One can see interesting leaves that have fallen.
 In the tropics,  most of the nutrients and energy are stored in the forest itself.   Fallen material recycles very quickly so the soil is thin and not rich. (That's why cutting down a tropical forest and trying to grow crops or pasture on it is not a sustainable idea.)
  One might see flowers that fell from a vine at the top of the canopy, or perhaps a very large seed.
 The most interesting category of fallen objects are bits of branch. Most branches in the cloud forest are loaded with epiphytes, or plants that use another plant as a support. They are not parasitic.  Over 400 species of orchids live in the Monteverde area and most are tiny and live high in trees. Intense winds cause many branches to break, creating orchid viewing possibilities without the bother and danger of tree climbing. This piece of branch is a miniature garden of several species, including orchids.
   This fallen branch had one of the larger species of orchids found in the area. The flowers were about 1 inch/2.5 cm across.

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